Matthew tells us in his
Gospel that Jesus was going about in the cities and
villages teaching and proclaiming the good news of
God's kingdom. Jesus was "healing every kind of
disease and every kind of sickness." As He looked
over the multitudes that were gathering around Him
". . . He felt compassion for them, because they
were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a
shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).
Jesus was putting into
action those deep feelings of compassion for the sad
and pitiful state in which He saw the people. The
original word suggests strong emotion; it means, "to
feel deep sympathy." The related noun splanchna,
means "sympathy, affection, or inward feelings." It
is the deep seat of compassionate feelings. He not
only felt compassion but also He was reaching out
with those deep feelings to touch people in their
deepest needs. The Hebrew word chesedh for
"mercy" communicates this same idea beautifully.
Let's face it, we live in
a day when "winner-takes-all" and whoever dies with
all the toys wins philosophy rebels at the idea of
"mercy." People are treated like things where power
is supreme and personal success is the chief end of
man. If you practice mercy in our highly competitive
society you are the real loser. How do you put into
practice the words of Jesus when He said, "Blessed
are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy"?
In our study of the
Beatitudes of Jesus we have observed in Matthew's
arrangement that the first four beatitudes express
our total dependence upon God and the next three are
the outworking in everyday life of that dependence
and submission to Him.
THE PRINCIPLE SIMPLY
Jesus said, "Blessed are
the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
A definition of
The word "merciful,"
according to Thayer is defined as: "good will
towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a
desire to relieve them." It not only means to feels
deeply but is also a word of action. It is to
recognize a need and then do something about it.
It is the outward
demonstration of sympathy; it assumes a need on the
part of him who receives it, and resources adequate
to meet the need on the part of the person who shows
The stress is on the
feelings of empathy showing itself in action, and
not just existing in thought only or feelings. Mercy
in the abstract is absolutely meaningless to Jesus.
I like to think of it as compassion in action.
The word for "merciful"
has been variously translated merciful, pity, mercy,
compassion, and feel compassion. Our word indicates
being moved to pity and compassion by a tragedy and
includes the fear that this could happen to me as
well. There but for the grace of God, go I. But
there is more to merciful because now that I see a
situation I want to try to do something about it.
The person who is
merciful is described as being "kind," or
"forgiving," or "people who take pity on others,"
and "who show mercy to others."
Mercy is a commentary on
our own lives. We are undeserving recipients of
God’s mercy. He reached down to us in our depravity
and brought us to Himself and extended His mercy to
us. "He lifted me out of the watery pit, out of the
slimy mud. He placed my feet on a rock and gave me
secure footing" (Psalm 40:2, NET).
Jesus said, "Blessed are
the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew
5:7, NASB95). The NET Bible reads, "Blessed are the
merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew
The emphasis is on those
who are of a mind to show mercy, not those who
occasionally show mercy. It is a habitual action.
The recipients of God’s grace and mercy habitually
live by that same grace and mercy.
In turn, they will
receive mercy on the last day. The spiritually
prosperous are those who show mercy to others; God
will be merciful to them!
There is an
eschatological application in this verse: People who
show mercy to others will have mercy shown to them
on judgment day. The person who does not show mercy
cannot count on God's mercy. The emphasis in our
text is "God will be merciful to them." That is the
eschatological blessing in the beatitude. God will
take pity on them, or will forgive them, or will
show mercy on them. People will be shown mercy on
the judgment day.
God will show mercy on
them when He comes to judge the world.
A self–acting law
Robert Nicoll explains,
"This Beatitude states a self-acting law of the
moral world. The exercise of mercy, active pity,
tends to elicit mercy from others––God and men."
God has shown mercy
toward guilty sinners
God has the power and
authority to deal with us in His righteousness. We
deserve eternal punishment. God in His undeserved
and unmerited grace gives us what we do not deserve.
He cleanses, forgives, and gives us a new standing
with Him. He does not give us what we deserve; we
deserve eternal separation from him in hell. He
treats us with mercy. "For while we were still
helpless, at the right time Christ died for the
ungodly" (Romans 5:6, NET). "But God demonstrates
his own love for us, in that while we were still
sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NET).
There is no greater demonstration of mercy in action
The Bible tells us that
Jesus Christ paid the price for our sin. "The wages
of sin is death." Jesus in His love died for us
paying our sin debt to the righteousness of God. God
has demonstrated His mercy toward us on the basis of
the vicarious substitutionary sacrifice of Christ
for our sins. Now He demonstrates mercy to the
Jesus showed mercy at the
cross when He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for
they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
While they were stripping Him of His garments and
nailing him to the crossbeam Jesus prayed for them
asking His Father to forgive them. That is showing
mercy. He could have called ten thousand angels down
Jesus told the story of
the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37 to a Jewish
lawyer who trying to justify himself. A man was
traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and robbers
assaulted him and stripped him of his clothing and
possessions and beat him and left him half dead. As
chance would have it a priest and a Levite each came
down the road, saw the man lying there and they
crossed on by the other side. Later a Samaritan on a
journey came upon the bleeding man, and saw him and
felt compassion. Instead of walking on by and doing
nothing he took the poor man and bandaged him up put
him on his own beast and took him to the inn and
took care of him. When it came time for the
businessman to go on his journey he told the
innkeeper, "Take care of him; and whatever more you
spend, when I return, I will repay you" (v. 35).
Jesus asked, "Which of these three do you think
proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the
robbers’ hands?" His listener replied correctly,
"The one who showed mercy toward him. And Jesus said
to him, "Go and do the same" (vv. 36-37).
Nothing proves that we
have been forgiven better than our own readiness to
forgive. What is the proper attitude of those who
have been ground under by those who would be the
greatest? Peter came up to Jesus asking, "Lord, how
often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive
him? Up to seven times?" Peter had been putting some
hard thought into that question. Jesus responded to
Peter, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but
up to seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22). Grace
is unlimited. Mercy continues to reach out in
compassion to others expressing itself at our
Then Jesus told a parable
about an unmerciful slave in 18:23-35. The unjust
steward has the power to inflict injury and
punishment. Should we not have mercy on others as
the Lord has had mercy on us? We are the recipients
of His great mercy and compassion. In our day of
double standards we need to demonstrate
unadulterated mercy before a watching world.
Jesus took upon Himself
our flesh and died for our sins. We experience His
mercy when we act on it by faith. 1 John 4:19, "We
love, because He first loved us."
I think of Helen, a
beautiful Christian widow of a military general in
one of the churches where I pastored. She had a
fortune stolen from her, and as a result she was
filled with hate for those who had taken her money
and property. After Christ came into her life she
would come into the church and her face would light
up like the sun and tears of joy would flow down her
lovely face and she would recount how she was the
recipient of God's wonderful grace. She had been
forgiven of all her sins and now she continues to
forgive. It is a mercy growing out of her personal
experience of the mercy of God. She could forgive
because it was Christ in her heart forgiving them.
Jesus made a practical
application of this great principle in Luke 6:36-38.
The context is talking about loving our enemies. He
said, "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend,
expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be
great, and you will be sons of the Most High,
because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people"
(Luke 6:35, NET). Then he said, "Be merciful, just
as your Father is merciful" (v. 36). Our heavenly
Father has already set the example for us.
The exercise of showing
mercy tends to elicit mercy from others. In the
examples cited we see a principle in life: "You get
back what you give."
THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED
TO OUR LIVES
We get back both
negative and positive attitudes and behaviors
We see this in the words
of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2. "Do not judge (krino,
meaning to separate, critic, criticize, criticism,
discriminate) lest you be judged yourselves. For in
the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your
standard of measure, it shall be measured to you."
This attitude produces
bitterness, resentment, and anger on the part of
The opposite of mercy is
hostility. It is a critical spirit, a critical
attitude that expresses itself in stingy,
unforgiveness, sour on life, condemning, judging,
critical, selfish, greedy, faultfinding, castigating
attitudes and behavior. Don't you just love to be
around someone like that? We parrot back what we
get. We also give people what they expect from us.
We tend to give back what
we receive in life. Each person gets back what he
gives. We get the kind of reaction back from others
that we give out.
Yes, we give back
what we get.
"Be merciful, just as
your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will
not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not
be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour
into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken
together, and running over. For by your standard of
measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke
What am I sowing and
giving? Do I sow love, hostility, kindness, hate,
goodness, revenge, or peace? People give back to us
exactly what we give to them. They read our feelings
and attitudes like a book.
One of the basic
principles in marriage and family counseling is
changing our attitudes and behaviors towards other
people and in turn they change toward us. As they
change their attitudes and behaviors we tend to
respond in similar manner. One positive behavior
reinforces another and it is almost as if a miracle
is taking place before our eyes. We get back what we
give to others.
We tend to criticize and
despise in others what we despise and are critical
in ourselves. We get back what we give out. Be
merciful and you receive mercy. Be unmerciful and
unforgiving and you will get that back, too. Rub
salt in someone’s emotional sores and they will fill
yours full, too.
What about those to whom
we show mercy, but we receive just the opposite in
Christian gives what others need, not what they
In the context of Luke
6:36-38 Jesus had just mentioned seven aspects of
unconditional love. You cannot accomplish this with
human nature. We by nature give back what we get;
therefore all of these proactive behaviors require
(1) Love your enemies.
(2) Do good to those who
(3) Bless those who curse
(4) Pray for those who
(5) Do not retaliate (v.
(6) Give freely (vv.
(7) Treat others the way
you want to be treated (v. 31).
When you love like this
you love like the heavenly Father.
Jesus then taught His
followers a fundamental principle of the
universe—what one sows he will reap (v. 36-38).
Let's suppose you do have
the authority and power to retaliate. Let's suppose
the person does deserve to be punished for what he
has done to you. Because of God's love we choose to
show mercy. We can choose not to give the person
what he deserves, but what he needs. This means I
must trust the offending person to God. It takes
faith in a sovereign God to know what is best for
person has the inner power to love the offender and
demonstrate mercy. Remember, you become like God who
is merciful. God chose to forgive us and show His
mercy to us on the basis of the death of Christ, and
now we can choose to demonstrate that same kind of
mercy to those who "sin" against us. It is a gift of
What if you had gone
through a situation like the ancient patriarch
Joseph who was the victim of jealousy among his
siblings, sold into slavery, thrown into prison and
forced to live in a foreign country. If you had the
power of the prime Minister of Egypt years later
when his brothers arrived begging for food and they
did to you what they had done to him, how would you
have treated them? Ah, here is your chance to really
stick it to them and let them know what it is like
to rot in an Egyptian prison. How would you treat
them? Would it be an act of mercy? Would it be a
reaction of retaliation?
We cannot give mercy
until we have first received mercy. It is not a
quality of the natural man; it is received as a gift
of God. It is something I experience in my heart.
Because I am a forgiven sinner who has experienced
God's mercy at Calvary, I can now choose to extend
mercy to the unmerciful.
Paul stated the same
principle while making an application on
stewardship. "My point is this: The person who sows
sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person
who sows generously will also reap generously" (2
Corinthians 9:6, NET).
Francis of Assisi
expressed this principle beautifully in "Lord Make
Me an Instrument":
"Lord, make me an
instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred,
let me show love;
Where there is injury,
Where there is doubt,
Where there is despair,
Where there is darkness,
And where there is
O divine Master, grant
that I may not
So much seek to be
consoled as to console,
To be understood as to
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that
It is in pardoning that
we are pardoned;
And it is in dying
That we are born to
How do you do it? It
doesn't happen automatically. It comes about as we
apply these great principles of the spiritually
Has the Holy Spirit put
His finger on a need today? Do you have a sense of
spiritual poverty? Has He brought you to the
realization that I have a problem and it is a lot
bigger than I ever through? I have a need for God to
work in my life in a new area of growth. "Blessed
are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
God." May the Spirit not rest until He has brought
us to a deep sense of that need where He wants to
work in our lives.
Have you begun to mourn
over it? Have you mourned and grieved over this
spiritual poverty in your life? Have you mourned
like one mourning for the dead? Does this spiritual
poverty cause you to grieve? Do you feel the intense
pain? Only God can comfort when we realize our
spiritual poverty. "Blessed are those who mourn, for
they shall be comforted."
The only resolve is
through the inner work of the Holy Spirit. It is
impossible for such a person to solve his own
spiritual problems. He needs help beyond himself.
Self-help books and pop-psychology won't give you
that inner strength you need. You and I do not have
the self-discipline to pull it off. It takes more
than we have to offer to do what God wants to do in
our lives. We must be willing to hand it over to God
and let Him do His work in our lives through His
Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit-controlled person can
know the power of God in his life. "Blessed are the
gentle, for they shall inherit the earth."
How badly do I want it?
Do I want it so badly that I am willing to "hunger
and thirst for righteousness"? Do I want what God
offers so badly that I am willing to sacrifice for
it? Do I have an intense craving for what God wants
in my life? "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
It is only then that we
can take what people give to us and turn it around
and give them what they need instead of what they
deserve. I can't do it. You can't do it in your own
power. It has to be God at work in us. As we hand
over to Him the hostility and hatred we receive from
others we can give them what they need––unmerited
love and grace. We can give mercy to those who treat
us unmerciful. Jesus said, "Blessed are the
merciful, for they shall receive mercy." There is no
1. I choose to
2. I choose to seek
what is in the highest good in everyone I meet each
3. I choose to
respect their choices in life even though I might
4. I realize it is
not something I do out of our own strength, but God
does it through me as I make myself available to
Proverbs 15:1 reminds us,
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word
stirs up anger." We can put it into action by
remembering that "every one be quick to hear, slow
to speak and slow to anger" (James 1:19).
How can we show mercy to
a Christian caught in some sin? What is my
attitude toward those who are less fortunate than
me? Who am I to judge another man's servant?
Who am I to condemn another man? When I
forgive someone, do I choose to forget? Do I
have a tendency to treat people like things or
objects? Do I walk all over people in order to be
successful? Do I tend to give people what they
deserve? Do I often feel I need to teach someone a
"lesson?" Do I use the power or position that I have
to hurt others who hurt me? Do I allow love to cover
a multitude of sins? Do I use circumstances for
growth instead of retaliation? Am I quick to condemn
a believer caught in sin?
This beatitude of Jesus
is revolutionary. It begins with the Lord’s attitude
toward us. "The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never
cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new
every morning; Great is Your faithfulness"
(Lamentations 3:22-23). The LORD’S "mercies" (checed
kheh·sed) lovingkindness, compassions, indeed,
mercy, never gives up on us. They are never cut or
come to an end. They are never finished; they
continue to work in us. He has great compassion on
us. Every morning thee is a fresh abundant supply of
checed. Because of the way He continues to treat us
each day we can have that same attitude working out
in our lives. Every day comes with its own set of
challenges. It gives us fresh new opportunities to
show compassion and mercy to everyone we meet.
"Great is Your faithfulness" oh LORD God!
Let’s demonstrate our
faithfulness to Him in return by making ourselves
available to Him. If we put this beatitude into
daily practice we can change this world one person
at a time.